MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now to Brazil, where tens of thousands of women are demonstrating on the streets today. Their message is summed up by their Internet hashtag - #nothim. Him refers to a presidential candidate from the far-right who is leading the polls ahead of next month's elections in Brazil. He is viewed by his opponents as dangerously autocratic and divisive and has a reputation for misogyny. We're joined by NPR's Philip Reeves, who's in Rio de Janeiro at one of the largest demonstrations. Philip, welcome. Thanks for joining us.
PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: You're welcome.
MARTIN: Who is this candidate, and why do so many women say they are worried that he might become president?
REEVES: He is Jair Bolsonaro. He's been a congressman for many years. He's a retired army captain. He's ahead in the polls, as you said. He has a record that he's been trying to distance himself from of making offensive remarks about women, about black Brazilians, about homosexuals, LGBT. But this crowd, very large crowd indeed that is here, have not forgotten or forgiven those remarks, which is one reason why they're here - the main reason why they're here. Three weeks ago, he made international headlines - so some people may well have heard of him in this context - when he was stabbed at a rally by a man who appeared to have mental issues. And he's been in hospital for the last three weeks recovering from what were pretty serious wounds until today. And during that time, he has crept up in the polls somewhat.
MARTIN: Tell us a little bit about what you're seeing at that demonstration in Rio.
REEVES: Oh, it's a really big crowd. I mean, it's huge. I couldn't possibly estimate the numbers. It's well into five figures, which is tens of thousands. I'm reading reports that there's a crowd of similar size in Brazil's biggest city, Sao Paolo. And there have been other demonstrations against Bolsonaro like this in cities across the country. The people here include many women.
It's a very diverse crowd - young and old. And there are men here, too - many men and children, too. They seem to come from very different social contexts, social backgrounds, but they united by the slogan which is on their T-shirts and their headbands, on their - on the stickers on their clothes and the flags and the placards that they're waving which is #nothim. It's a festive mood. There's lot of chanting and singing. But underlying that festivity is a very serious message, which is a message saying, we do not want this man to be our president.
MARTIN: How widespread do you think the opposition among women is, and is it significant enough to stop him from being elected?
REEVES: Well, I can only go by what the polls say, and we all know what the limitations of polling is, having had the experience of watching other elections in other parts of the world unravel on the basis of predictions. But here, the polls show that he has a high rejection rate, a really high rejection rate among women who say they're going to vote but say they would never vote for him. It's over 50 percent. That said, though, he does have support from some women. He has about 20 percent who say they'll vote for him. And they've been holding counter-demonstrations today which are much smaller. The issues that draw them to him seem to be frustration about the economy here, which has seen the worst recession in history, about corruption and the establishment, which has been massive. And, of course, about violent crime. That's probably their principal concern.
MARTIN: And Philip, we only have a couple of seconds left, but the election is on October 7. But will that be decisive?
REEVES: No, probably not. The signs are that it will go to a second round. And the big issue is whether Bolsonaro can win that.
REEVES: And it's not clear he will.
MARTIN: All right. Sorry to interrupt. That's NPR's Philip Reeves in Rio de Janeiro. Philip, thanks so much.
REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.